The Marvel comic universe contains a cast of thousands. There are hundreds of superheroes with varying powers, and many of them have multiple monikers and costumes as their characters evolve over the years or are passed down through the generations. That can make tracking them difficult, especially if they flip from one persona to another in passing, like Ronin in Avengers: Endgame. Considering how short a segment this character got, fans are probably wondering who is Ronin and why all these people in Hawkeye want to take him out.
Warning: Spoilers for Hawkeye Episodes 1 and 2 follow. Fans got a brief look at Ronin as a character in the early going of Avengers: Endgame, as Natasha and Steve worked to get the band back together. With his family gone, and no Avengers to anchor him, Clint Barton dropped his Hawkeye persona and remade himself as Ronin. He traded his bow and arrow for a sword and supervillain hunting for taking out organized crime.
Fans could be forgiven for forgetting about that scene, since a lot happened in Endgame (understatement of the century), and the scene with Barton as Ronin was pretty short. Once Natasha brought Hawkeye home, his Ronin look disappeared — that is, until his outfit and sword (along with a few other items from the ruins of the Avengers compound) turned up at a black-market auction in the Hawkeye premiere.
In the comics, Ronin has a pretty extensive track record — and the moniker isn’t just limited to Hawkeye. In fact, Clint Barton was the second character to take up the Ronin identity. He took up the mantle in 2007 after his character was offed and resurrected during the House of M comic run. (These things get complex in the comics. The Time Variance Authority plucked a different version of him out of time to serve on Scarlet Witch’s jury trial, one thing led to another, and there was a new Hawkeye when it was all restored.) However, since this version of Barton wasn’t the original Hawkeye, he wanted a new persona. The Ronin one was going free, as its original owner had moved on. So, he passed the Hawkeye moniker to Kate Bishop and took up the Ronin one, with the blessing of its original user: Echo.
All this comics backstory is important because, as fans saw at the end of Hawkeye Episode 2, Echo is getting set up to be one of this series’ big bads. Originally, Ronin was developed to be a Daredevil alias, but that conflicted with the current storyline at the time. So in 2005, it was reassigned to Maya Lopez, aka Echo, a Daredevil antagonist.
Now, this is not the first time the MCU has taken character identities and thrown them in a blender, remaking a character’s bio for its own purposes. From the looks of it, since the MCU already introduced Ronin as Hawkeye, and because there’s a series all about Echo in the works, it seems the Ronin suit may pass the other way, from Barton to Lopez. Meanwhile, there’s Bishop, who is probably taking up the Hawkeye mantle when all this is over. Perhaps when all is said and done, Clint Barton will be free just to be Clint.
Hawkeye releases new episodes on Disney+ on Wednesdays.